Unions will launch a major advertising campaign targeting soaring executive salaries and company profits as the reason to overhaul workplace laws.
The new month-long Australian Council of Trade Unions blitz will hit screens and airwaves across the country on Sunday.
“The CEOs’ pay is going up again and companies are making huge profits, but they won’t even give us a pay rise to keep up with the cost of living – just enough to keep my head above water,” the woman in the TV ad says.
“Things are really out of balance. We’re all getting ripped off. Let’s stand together and get things changed.”
The campaign drew an immediate response from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who took time away from watching the Bathurst 1000 to deliver a personal blast at ACTU Secretary Sally McManus.
“There’s one thing I have in common with Bob Hawke – he was the last prime minister to turn up at the Bathurst 1000 and he was a prime minister who was prepared to stand up to union thuggery,” he said.
After describing Ms McManus as a law-breaker and branding opposition leader Bill Shorten a union puppet, Mr Morrison then issued a plea for unity.
The way to get a stronger economy, he said, isn’t to pick fights with one another but to work together.
The ACTU radio advertisements will promote 13 rallies in cities and regional centres, kicking off on October 18 in Perth and ending early November.
The latest weapon in the ACTU’s Change The Rules campaign comes after Ms McManus dialled up the pressure on Labor to support sector-wide bargaining in a major speech last week.
“The economy has changed and the narrow enterprise-only bargaining system is failing a lot of people. Stronger rights for working people will help rebalance the system,” Ms McManus said on Sunday.
“Working people have had enough of businesses taking obscene profits and CEOs making exorbitant salaries at the expense of the pay rises and job security we need to get ahead of the cost of living.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten said his party hadn’t finalised a position on changes to wage bargaining, but agreed with unions’ claims about sluggish wage growth.
“Corporate profits are going up, some people are doing very well thank you very much. But for millions of everyday Aussies, they haven’t had a wage rise in absolute ages,” he told the Seven Network.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said unions would have a much greater role within Labor under a Shorten government.
“He’s determined to put the ACTU and the union movement at the top table with a seat in cabinet,” Mr Frydenberg told Sky News.
He said incoming ALP president Wayne Swan, shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh and Ms McManus had all made speeches calling for increased union power in the past week.
“They see an emboldened and militant union movement as the tonic for inequality and we clearly disagree with them on that,” the treasurer said.
Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has warned industry-wide action would paralyse whole sectors of the economy, with the potential to shut down essential services like schools and hospitals.